Bodies had been dropping for the six weeks of summer when Melody’s phone finally rang. Six long weeks of heat, of death, and of strange stories. Murder was one thing. New York could cope with murder. But these were just murders. There was something different about them – something weird.
Weird enough that, finally, someone had called Melody.
She’d been a cop, “back in the day”. But then there had been the case. The Case, with a capital C, that every detective catches before the end. The case that makes your career, or breaks your career. The case that, sometimes, breaks you too.
Melody’s case had been a big one, front-page news for eight weeks solid. They called the killer “The Ragdoll”, because when a killer is on the loose nothing sells papers and gets clicks on your website like giving the killer a twee little nickname for them to play up to. It also encouraged copy-cats, psychics, cranks, amateur sleuths and made sure that if you were the cop who caught the case that you, forever, were “The Ragdoll Cop”.
It was a circus. It was a game. It made some cops heroes, some cops millionaires. It put some cops in the asylum.
Despite all the books, the blogs, the magazine articles and the column inches, there was still a lot that people didn’t know about The Ragdoll. It isn’t something that cops talk about much, but there is such a thing as your garden variety psycho. Just a guy or a girl who gets broken on the wheel of the world and snaps back mad and crazy. Sometimes get hurt so badly that hurting is the only thing they know, the only thing they understand. But that wasn’t Ragdoll. What he was wasn’t something that a person, any kind of person, could ever turn into. Ragdoll was something else entirely, from a place somewhere else again. Melody had busted a man from the wrong side of the mirror, and that was a case guaranteed to break anyone.
Melody let the phone ring three more times before she picked it up. She wanted to let it ring out, but a cop is still a cop even after your break that cop and abandon them, even after you tell them to put themselves back together again from whatever’s left. Melody was a New York cop through and through, what other shape would she even know how to make?
“Miss Peace? Miss Melody Peace?”
Melody listened patiently as her former Captain made small talk and pretended that he’d believed her all along about the Ragdoll case. Lots of platitudes, lots of veiled references to “higher ups”, “the top brass”, and “city hall”. Lots of musings on what had been “best for her” and “best for the force”.
“Cut to it, Boss,” she said finally, when she felt his penance was served for the day.
Then she listened patiently as the Captain explained to her the case as best he could. He avoided the obvious words – “magic”, “mirror”, “Ragdoll”. The man’s capacity to dissemble was endless. Eventually, Melody put him out of his misery.
Eventually, Melody put him out of his misery.
“I’ll do it,” she said, interrupting him much to his own relief. “Three hundred a day, plus expenses. And I’ll need a car.”
She hung up shortly after, having told the Captain “not to worry” and delivered her own little stream of platitudes and half-truths about what would come next. Lies were the fundamental lubricant of magic, without them the friction between what was real and what was not would set the whole world ablaze.
Melody sat for a moment, just breathing, before she picked the phone back up and made a call of her own. You didn’t work on the wrong side of the mirror and not make a few contacts, collect a few favours. It was time to call one in.
She dialed. Her contact waited five rings before she answered.
“Mary? It’s me. Melody… Yeah, I know. I think so. Another one. Yeah. I need you to come over. Come on over. Come on over. Come on over. Mary… Mary… Mary…”
Upstairs, in Melody’s bathroom, a mirror shattered and Melody heard footsteps crunching across the broken glass.
“You could have used the door!” she shouted up the stairs. “I had glass panelling put in!”
“No fun,” Bloody Mary replied, stalking down the stairs. “Now, where have you been keeping my axe?”